Get to know the Howarth Bassoon Department!

Introducing Ben Couldwell, our General Manager & Bassoon Specialist and Paul Harris, our Business Development and Relationship Manager & Bassoon Specialist!

Based in our London Showrooms on Chiltern Street, Ben and Paul are our specialists for all your bassoon enquires. They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge of the instrument and are here to help you at any point in your bassoon journey.

Whilst their instrument specialism lies in the bassoon world, both Ben and Paul hold roles in the management and direction of all our woodwind specialisms here at Howarth.

You can now read more about the instruments they play, what they have learnt in their time at Howarth and the best thing they find about working in London.

How long have you been working at Howarth?

Ben: Approaching 14 years

Paul: 2 ½ years

What instrument do you play? And why did you choose it?

P: I play a wonderful 7000 series Heckel which I’ve owned for over 25 years. After the predicted long search, it was the instrument that I felt best represented my voice and gave me the flexibility and Heckel sound I’d been searching for.

B: My main instrument is a Fox 201. I still have my Fox 222D from student days as well as my Amati Contra.

I chose the Fox because it was the instrument that suited my abilities and needs at that point and I could afford it when I was a student. I’ve lived it with it for the best part of 20 years now so wouldn’t be parted from it, but there is such a fantastic range of instruments available now that it is difficult not to be tempted to try something else. Each brand of bassoon has its own characteristics and It is a privilege to present all the fantastic manufacturers that we stock to customers.

How did you start playing or begin with music?

B: I’m not from a particularly musical family although my great grandfather was a Euphonium player in Dinnington colliery band back when pit band members actually dug coal for a living. School recorder lessons were my first experiences. My junior school offered flute or clarinet, so at that point I became one of Howarth’s many secret flute players (oddly we have more staff who can play flute than any other instrument!) As with a lot of bassoonists the bassoon found me rather than the other way round, being presented with the idea by my flute teacher when I was 11, which was followed by a surprise and entirely coincidental visit from a bassoon teacher at music centre the following weekend. The rest is history.

P: I was lucky to have attended schools with enthusiastic teachers who shared their love of music and also made suggestions to pupils about which instrument might suit them best. I’d spotted a sixth former playing bassoon, fell in love with the sound but didn’t know what it was!

What have you learnt/interesting thing you have seen from working at Howarth?

P: Every day at Howarth is a learning day, as we often learn as much from our customers as the advice and experience we pass on.

B: I often joke that I know too much about the oboe for someone who doesn’t play it. Before I worked here, it had never even occurred to me that we play on a different keywork system to pretty much the rest of the world in the UK. One the most fascinating things I have seen working here is the machinery and expert crafts people we have at our factory in Worthing. We are very much at the forefront of maintaining these skills in the UK as well as pioneering new ones.

Where did you study? What did you enjoy most about studying there?

B: I studied at the Royal College of Music. I enjoyed the opportunity to study and play with so many great musicians. It was also the first opportunity I had to be emersed in a broad variety of cultures from all over the world and was something of an eyeopener to someone fresh down from South Yorkshire.

P: I studied at Trinity College of Music when it was round the corner from Howarth. I was there during an amazing time when the Head of Wind, oboist Steven Nagy, created a department offering chamber music training which enabled everyone to play most of the repertoire during their time. It really was the best 4 years of my life. I studied with Felix Warnock and Robin O’Neill.

Favourite piece of music?

B: Difficult one, I suppose I came to orchestral music via film music, so I’m into film soundtracks. I’m allegedly the double reed departments resident 90s pop expert as well but most of them weren’t even born then so I think that’s just their way of saying I’m old!

Favourite musical?

P:“West Side Story”, although the National Theatre revival of “Carousel” paid the deposit for my flat.

Favourite food?

P: Spaghetti alle Vongole

B: A good curry, or fish and chips but it has to be at the seaside!

Interesting Hobby?

B: Old aeroplanes, steam engines, airshow photography, anything that goes that isn’t powered by computers! If nothing else tinkering in my shed

Best thing about living/working in London?

P: The buzz (pre-COVID), being able to do so much on impulse and of course, the amazing concerts, theatres and opera houses.

B: London is not as big as it initially feels, especially central London. It has so much crammed into a small space. There’s so much to do / see and its all easy to get to. You can cover a lot on foot. I think everyone should spend a few years in London if they get the chance. It’s a 24-hour city and if you want to do something at 3am you can and there will be a bus to get you there. These days, I live in the countryside so working here gives me a reason to come into town 5 days a week, although I do like being able to see the stars at night at home.

Recommendation to do/see/eat in London

B: Go to south Kensington and see the museums, or take a Thames cruise. It’s one of the best ways to see London and from relatively calm surroundings. But most of all, go to a concert or see a show and see some of our hugely talented customers showing what they can do.

About Howarth of London

Woodwind Specialists - Howarth are leading suppliers of oboes, bassoons, clarinets, saxophones and flutes. Makers of fine oboes, cors anglais & oboes d'amore.
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